2016-09-23 / Community

Skatepark debate may include new location

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — A plan to revisit proposals for a makeover of Kennebunk’s skateboard park will move ahead by looking to the past.

Almost 15 months go, voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to move the facility to Parsons Field from its longtime home on Factory Pasture Lane.

“We’ve had this on the back burner since the [June 2015] vote,” Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said, at the selectmen’s Sept. 13 meeting. “I think it’s time to move it forward.”

After some debate, selectmen agreed to return to the question Oct. 11 for a vote to create an “ad hoc committee to review and recommend a design firm for the board’s review and approval.”

According to Tibbets, the town has received two inquiries from skatepark companies that offer design/build services since selectmen last mulled what to do with the park at a Sept. 22, 2015 meeting.

In a memo to selectmen, Tibbetts did not name the two firms that submitted proposals, nor were they named at the Sept. 13 meeting. However, he did say neither was the Kennebunkport company the town has dealt with previously.

“They’re no longer involved in skateparks. They’ve gone on to do different things,” Tibbetts said.

Even so, Selectman Shiloh Schulte, who rode into his selectman’s seat on the wave of a citizen’s petition he circulated to block the move to Parsons Field, said past work should not be lost.

“We as a town went through this process once already,” he said. “The information is still there, in terms of what people using the skatepark would want. It seems like we’ve already had a good, solid start.”

“It’s been kind of a while since we’ve had the kids and the public involved,” Tibbetts said. “We thought it would be a good process to start over so it’s a clean slate.”

But others agreed with Schulte, saying it would be a waste to have either of the two new firms repeat the years of effort logged by young skating enthusiasts, anxious to rebuild the park.

“We’d be spending money for their time for things that have already been done,” Selectman Deborah Beal said.

“We have a lot of designs and drawings already. I’m not sure what else needs to be done,” Selectman Ed Karytko agreed.

It’s been more than three years since funding for the project was approved to overhaul the town’s skateboard park, originally built in 1993. In June 2013, Kennebunk residents voted 394-213 to borrow $1.28 million for various road, sidewalk and park projects. Listed among the items was “skateboard park improvements,” for which selectmen earmarked $100,000 of the bond money.

After deciding adjacent wetlands made expanding the existing park problematic, at best, selectmen reviewed 10 alternate locations during the summer and fall of 2014, eventually settling on Parsons Field as the best site, and tasked Town Engineer Chris Osterrieder to report back with a plan by the spring of 2015.

Before that happened, however, some downtown businesses preemptively killed one concept, which was to put the new park between their stores and the Parsons Field teen center. Then, when plans surfaced that put the new skatepark in the park itself, directly adjacent to the ball fields, local residents, including Schulte, rose up to oppose that design.

The question, successfully placed on the June 2015 ballot — “Do you favor the town allocating green space in Parsons Field to construct a new skateboard park rather than improving the current skateboard park?” — fell 2,766-1,196.

At the Sept. 13 meeting, Rachel Phipps questioned if moving the park from its current site was still an option. Given the June 2015 vote, do selectmen even have that power, she asked.

“I would say we do if we wanted to, because it was a non-binding vote,” Selectman Chris Cluff said, “but I don’t know if any of us has the political will to do that.”

Osterrieder said leaving the park where it is was the second option behind a relocation to Parsons Field, all of the other sites then under consideration having proved unworkable, or else having since become unavailable.

Winter Street resident Paul Beaudoin, said the current skate park on Factory Pasture Lane is “in one of the worst places the town could have placed a park.”

Recalling comments made in 2015 by former selectman David Spofford, who recalled at the time that the park had originally been built to placate teenagers in town, but placed on Factory Pasture Lane to put them “out of sight, out of mind,” Beaudoin said, “The most important part of this decision is to place our children in safe location.”

“The park is always littered with trash and empty alcohol bottles, old spray paint cans and broken glass, and graffiti,” he said, reading from a letter he submitted to the board. “The potential hazards for children will not be eliminated by placing a sidewalk and digging a hole in the ground for a new cement ramp. A culture has already been integrated into the minds of the individuals who use this park, which is partially the town’s fault for not maintaining it.”

Selectmen Chairman Richard Morin cut off Beaudoin, saying they board had his letter in hand and did not require further recitation.

“Location doesn’t seem to be the issue at hand,” Morin said, saying he felt from the wording of previous votes that spending of the $100,000 pool is pretty well tied to the current locations.

“Really, we just need to decide if we want to get a couple of companies involved to come up with a plan,” he said.

Phipps said no decision should be made until the ad hoc committee is formed and local teens consulted.

“I think it would be a bad move to move forward with anything without consulting with those consumers, regardless of what’s been done before, without having them involved,” she said.

Resident John Costin suggested going back to a review of potential sites, in order to determine “if there were any stones unturned” during the first go-round.

“I’m not opposed to the idea if a new location, but I think that if we do change the location, that would need to go out to voters,” Schulte said.

Although Osterrieder did not have any immediate suggestions for new sites, selectmen agreed a move should remain on the table, although some wondered to what end.

“If you moved the park, I don’t know that the problems would go away,” Karytko said.

Tibbetts said he will return to the Oct. 11 meeting with the thoughts expressed by selectmen fleshed out for an actual vote, including what course the committee might pursue.

“You would see a little bit more of a complete picture of how it might unfold,” he said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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